CORNER BROOK — Mike McGowan has been feeling a little “haggis stress” this week.
The butcher, and owner of McGowan’s Quality Meat and Sausage Makers on Broadway, is responsible for bringing in the haggis for the Scottish Heritage Society of Western Newfoundland’s annual Robbie Burns Night tonight.
McGowan has been providing the haggis for the celebration of the life of the great Scottish poet since he opened up shop here five years ago.
“I came for a holiday and I thought Corner Brook needed a butcher shop,” he said.
McGowan, who hails from Paisley, Scotland, by way of Brampton, Ont. can make haggis himself, but prefers to source if from outside the province because not just any haggis will do.
“I want professional haggis,” said McGowan.
He’s ordered one 10-pound and two five-pound puddings from a pal who runs But ‘n’ Ben Scottish Bakery and Butchers in Ontario. But if that haggis doesn’t make it here — at last check on Wednesday it was in Montreal headed for the Marine Atlantic ferry and totally at the mercy of the weather — McGowan said he will just have to make one himself.
“I’m on the edge for sure now,” he said with a laugh.
But he needn’t worry since he’s got everything in his shop to make a haggis, including pig intestines to stuff the ingredients in (traditionally haggis is prepared in a cow’s stomach), lamb heart, lamb lights (lungs), lamb liver, suet and seasonings.
“It’s the best, especially if you have a wee drop of dram,” he said in a thick Scottish accent.
“I just love the innards of the animal. I love the liver, I love the lungs. I’ll have a lamb kidney before I have a T-bone steak.”
“It’s widespread in Scotland now,” he said. “They’re deep frying it, they’re making haggis on a bun, they’re making haggis burgers. You get fancy restaurants in Glasgow now, they’re stuffing chicken breast with haggis.”
Whether he has to make the haggis or not, McGowan is looking forward to tonight’s festivities which get underway at the Bennett Hall on West Street at 7 p.m.
The evening starts with the head table being piped into the dining hall by bagpiper Jim Day. After the first course, the haggis is brought in and addressed before being served. That’s followed by a roast beef dinner.
After the meal, David Smallwood will give the keynote address on the life, wit and poetry of Robbie Burns which will end with a toast to his immortal memory. Then there will be toasts to Scotland, Newfoundland and the lassies and lots of Scottish dancing.
A Robbie Burns Night is also being held at the Royal Canadian Legion in Stephenville tonight.